So you’ve decided to add a kitten or cat to the family. Congratulations! You’re probably eager to bring your feline friend home as soon as possible. But before you rush out to the shelter, we recommend doing a little preparation. Follow this guide to set you and your new cat up for success right from the beginning.
1. Think about what type of cat is best for you
Are you looking for a high-energy cat that loves to play or a low-key one that prefers naps and snuggle sessions? Do you have the time and patience for a kitten, or would an older cat be more your speed? By thinking about what type of cat will fit best with your lifestyle, you’ll be able to narrow the choices when it comes time to pick your fur friend.
When adopting from a shelter or rescue, you may not be able to get a cat’s entire history, but often the adoption counselors will have some background information. Since you’ve already thought about what type of cat you’d like, you can ask questions about a cat’s age, personality, and energy level. If you already have kids or pets in your home, you can find out if the cat you’re interested in has a history of living with children or other animals. And if you do know the cat’s breed, head to the Wisdom Panel breed library to read up on their temperament, grooming needs, and more.
2. Cat-proof your home
Cats’ curious nature is part of their appeal, but sometimes it can get them into trouble. Ensure your home environment is safe for cats by keeping cords and cables tucked away, trash cans covered, and surface areas free from breakables or items your cat may find tempting to eat.
Some breeds, like the Persian, prefer to stay close to the ground. However, most cats are good climbers and like to explore high places like bookshelves and cabinets. When cat-proofing, scan from floor to ceiling, looking for objects that may catch your kitty’s eye.
And if you have live plants in the house, do some research to make sure the leaves or flowers aren’t toxic to cats.
3. Shop for pet supplies in advance
Before bringing your cat home, ensure you have what you need to cover their basic needs. Must-haves are a high-quality diet formulated for their life stage, a litter box, cat litter, and food and water bowls. Scratching posts and cat trees are also good for your cat’s health and enrichment.
You may also need some grooming supplies. Most cats are good about keeping themselves clean, but long-haired cats may require brushing to keep their coats free from mats and tangles. It’s also important to keep your cat’s nails trimmed so they don’t get torn or snagged on something.
And last but not least, toys! Cats are great at turning everything from a bottle cap to a shoelace into a source of entertainment, but it’s always nice to have some cat-specific toys around. Jingle balls, feather toys, and fishing pole toys are fun ways to help your cat get the exercise they need.
4. Find a veterinarian
The sooner you find a veterinarian and establish a relationship, the better. Asking trusted friends and neighbors for a recommendation is an excellent place to start. Online reviews can also be helpful (but remember to take them with a grain of salt).
When researching veterinary clinics, look for one in a convenient location with hours likely to work with your schedule. For example, do they have evening hours, or are they open on the weekend? Ask about options for wellness plans or other care packages that might make routine care more affordable and convenient. Some cats get very nervous at the vet, so find out if the clinic has any special protocols to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
5. Make a plan for your cat to settle in
Change is hard for everyone, including cats. There’s a good chance your cat will need some time to feel safe and comfortable in their new home. Taking it slow and giving them plenty of space is the best way to help them get acclimated.
Before bringing your cat home, set up a comfortable space for them in a quiet room. Then, plan to let them use that room to get used to the sounds and smells of the house before slowly introducing them to more people, pets, or stimulation.
6. Brush up on cat body language
Over time, you’ll get to know your cat’s moods and preferences. But until then, it’s a good idea to understand how to read cat body language. Recognizing signs that your cat is feeling scared, defensive, anxious, or playful will help you respond appropriately and help them succeed in different scenarios.
Bonus step: get ready to fall in love
Cats are wonderful companions that brighten up the lives of those lucky enough to share a home with them. By following the guidelines we’ve laid out, you can be sure you’re showing them the love they deserve right from the beginning.